There are three elements in The Princess Bride (both book and film) that made the story memorable: the action, the comedy, and the love. I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t love the swordfights, one-liners, chases, or Miracle Max and his wife. But when it comes to the relationship between Westley and Buttercup, we’re pretty divided, aren’t we? Some adore how it engulfs itself in the fairy tale, while others complain that the romance hasn’t aged well with the times. And…
Westley: “Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.”
Yeah, um…do you plan to make syrup with all that sap?
To be fair, The Princess Bride is a fairy tale at its core. You take a made-up fantasy world, add the stereotypical melodrama that was popular when PB came out, and more often than not you’ll have yourself an equation guaranteed to appeal to swooning, teary-eyed women. So in that sense, it’s no surprise that The Princess Bride is a popular love story.
That said, ‘good’ and ‘popular’ are two different words, especially when it comes to the arts. Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events is beyond good, yet most of us don’t even talk about it anymore. Zac Efron is a popular actor, but that doesn’t mean his work is anything spectacular.
And for a while, I figured that the love aspect in The Princess Bride was popular, but not good. As I said before, the lines are cheesy beyond belief. On top of that, Buttercup has little to no character outside of being in love and getting in trouble all the time (seriously, she makes Princess Peach look like Natasha Romanoff). And the kid opting not to mind the kissing at the end of the movie…yeah, I think you’d be hard pressed to find a ten-year-old boy from any time period who wanted to read about a kissing scene.
As you can imagine, I didn’t understand the appeal of The Princess Bride’s hammered-in message about love. So I did a little digging, and at first didn’t find anything. Bloggers and critics said they either loved or hated the romance, yet didn’t explain why. But then I found Laurie Gold’s blog Why is The Princess Pride So Wonderfully Romantic, and she brought this up:
“Grandpa slyly counsels patience until they get to the good stuff—the pirates, the swords, and the killing—muting his grandson’s skepticism until he’s hooked. By the time Grandpa finishes reading the story, the little boy says to him ‘Grandpa, maybe you could come over and read it again to me tomorrow.’ To which the Grandpa responds, ‘as you wish.’ It’s an adorable moment and while it’s not directly tied to the movie’s romanticism, it does tug at the heart because it completes their ‘pair bond.’”
That’s when it hit me: Just because The Princess Bride is about love, that doesn’t mean it’s only about romance. And even without Westley and Buttercup, The Princess Bride—at least in the film—tells not one, but two love stories.
One of the love stories in The Princess Bride is Inigo Montoya seeking revenge for his father’s murder. Mandy Patinkin, the guy who played Inigo in the movie, lost his father to cancer in 1972. He says getting to play Inigo in The Princess Bride was a fine privilege for him, and the summarized reason for it is that no one else was more perfect for the role. Both Patinkin and Inigo loved their fathers and lost them. But while Inigo found temporary satisfaction in achieving his goal, his last line in the movie made Patinkin realize how much revenge doesn’t lead to peace, and that there’s a difference between revenge and justice.
And in the film, the other love story is with the kid and his grandfather. Not only does it mirror Goldman telling stories of princesses to his two daughters when they were growing up (which inspired the book), but it also shares a perfect demonstration of family love. In the beginning, while the Grandfather dotes on the boy to no end, the boy is understandably disconnected. All they do throughout the movie is read a book together, but thanks to their occasional commentary you can see the boy warming up to the story. By the end, when the Grandfather delivers the final line “as you wish,” he leaves both the boy and the audience with a deep feeling of gratitude.
So in the end, The Princess Bride is a good love story. It just might require taking a few steps back and seeing the whole picture to understand why. And though I’ll continue to bang my head on walls over the corny romance, there’s no denying that it left a strong impact on story enthusiasts that we’ll continue to love in the future.
Photo source: http://www.geeksofdoom.com/tag/the-princess-bride
Sources used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_t3uDVPiRc
heroesandheartbreakers.com (I know I can’t get the link to Gold’s post here. Deal with it.)